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Employers Take Active Role in Promoting Workplace Wellness
Date:7/14/2008

Major employers join with Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to promote workplace wellness programs and incentivize healthier behavior

WASHINGTON, July 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recognizing that chronic illness accounts for 75 percent of healthcare spending, many employers are taking a "hands on" approach to improving employee health and wellness by promoting programs that address smoking, obesity, and disease prevention and management. At a press briefing this morning hosted by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), representatives from Food Lion LLC, DTE Energy, and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) discussed employee engagement in workplace wellness programs that drive healthier behaviors and control costs.

In conjunction with the briefing, BCBSA also released a new report, Engaging Consumers @ Work (EC@W), that found workplace education and activation programs can increase worker participation in wellness programs by 21 percent or more -- suggesting big dividends for employers who invest in these programs.

"Employers are drivers of innovation. More than 160 million people get their health coverage through their job and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are collaborating with employers across the country to help them achieve their goal of a healthy workforce," said Scott P. Serota, BCBSA president and CEO. "Employers play a critical role in employee wellness and they have been aggressive in developing innovative ways to improve quality, reduce costs, and keep employees healthy."

The NBGH, Food Lion and DTE Energy will join the Blue Care Network of Michigan and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina later today to take their message to Capitol Hill and brief congressional staff and others about their collaboration on workplace wellness programs.

Pat Fulcher, vice president of associate services for Food Lion, described their collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina in the EC@W initiative, a successful workplace walking program that evaluated its impact on worker engagement. She also discussed Food Lion's innovative workplace wellness initiatives that include nutritional counseling, mammograms, flu shots, and smoking cessation resources.

"Decreasing illness and increasing productivity are integral to maintaining and attracting a skilled workforce," said Fulcher. "Food Lion is committed to offering a robust benefit package and being a resource for our employees. As an employer, we feel it is our responsibility to educate our associates on the many wellness resources available to them to encourage a healthier lifestyle."

Richard Lueders, director of compensation and benefits for DTE Energy in Detroit, Michigan, discussed his company's disease management initiatives and participation in the Blue Care Network of Michigan's Healthy Blue Living(SM) program which rewards members who pursue health goals with enhanced benefits at lower costs. Over a three-year period, DTE's disease management programs resulted in savings of more than $2.2 million in reduction in work days missed.

"We are committed to creating a workplace that supports employee health and wellness," said Lueders. "Implementing wellness programs, including the Healthy Blue Living Program, has successfully increased productivity and reduced costs. It's a win-win partnership."

Helen Darling, NBGH president, discussed findings from their recent survey of what employees want from employers in terms of health improvement. According to the NBGH survey, 80 percent of employees felt that employers should be involved in providing healthcare information to employees and 66 percent of employees support having discounts or rewards for those who have healthy lifestyles.

"Employers are putting a much higher priority on wellness and lifestyle improvement programs than ever before," said Darling. "Employers understand that investment in health and productivity is good for their employees and families, as well as good for business."

These collaborative employer initiatives are examples of what employers and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are doing nationwide to address the cost of care and improve healthcare quality - a key component of BCBSA's new comprehensive proposal, "The Pathway to Covering America: Ensuring Quality, Value and Access."

More examples of initiatives by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to improve quality and value are highlighted in "The Pathway to Covering America," a five-part plan that builds on the employer-based system to promote better quality care, keep healthcare affordable and improve access to coverage. The Pathway proposal can be found on the BCBSA Web site at: http://www.bcbs.com/issues/uninsured/pathway-to-covering-america/. The Engaging Consumers @ Work report can be found online at: http://www.bcbs.com/news/bluetvradio/workplace-wellness-programs/.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 39 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 100 million individuals -- one-in-three Americans. For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit http://www.BCBS.com.


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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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